That Presidential Shoot-on-Sight Order

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Segun James writes that while many welcome the presidential directive to security agents to shoot-at-sight anyone in possession of AK47 riffle illegaly, there are concerns that the order may be abused

When President Muhammadu Buhari gave the matching order to the police and the military that any unauthorized person found wielding AK47 rifle anywhere in the country should be shot. Many critics cried out that given the activities of the men of the Nigerian security services in the past, the decision may be a license to kill at will. Besides, such shooting may end up as extrajudicial killing. To them, the order was too broad and could signal a call to arms among the people.

To many Nigerians, however, the order was a pleasant surprise. Until recently, the President had been taciturn concerning violence in the country, especially those involving suspected Fulani herdsmen.

Since the farmers-herders clash assumed a worrisome trend with attendant loss of lives and property, the Presidency has been accused of doing too little or outright complicity and taking sides with the AK47 carrying herders believed to be Buhari’s Fulani kinsmen.

Though the Presidency has consistently denied it was working hand-in-glove with the violent herders, its seeming reluctance to take a tougher stance against them (until the recent shoot-at-sight order) belie the situation.

The Presidential directive to shoot armed herders at-sight may be the strongest indication yet that the Buhari Presidency has no hand in the the nefarious activities like killing, rape and kidnap perpetrated by alleged Fulani herdsmen.

The encounter of Mr. Jola Ekuntin with the suspected herdsmen may be instructive. When he saw armed men herding cows striding towards him from across the road, Ekunrin’s first thought was that it was contract killers or kidnappers out for him. Instead they ignored him. But after a brief moment, he watched as the cattle entered his farm and proceeded to eat his crops of yam and cassava at Iseyin, in Oke Ogun area of Oyo state.

The cattle later trampled upon the under growth as they move out. The herdsmen never spoke to him as they went about herding their cattle. Ekunrin was speechless and dumbfounded. He realized that any attempt to confront them would be suicidal. He went home a sad man and a lot poorer.

His was not the first farm destroyed by the marauding herdsmen. Many farmers who had confronted them never lived to tell their story.

For the people of Ogodobiri in Burutu local government area of Delta state, it was sunset at dawn when men of the Nigerian Army invaded the town on a doomsday mission. By the time they were done, the entire town was turned into rubble as the natives fled into the mangrove forest.

The destruction of Ogodobiri followed the killing of 12 soldiers by their son, John Togo. Togo in his audacious nature had attack the soldiers who were on guard duties at a nearby oil facility.

What prompted the destruction of the sleepy community was the number of weapons stockpiled in the community by Togo. The military authorities were alarmed that a civilian had so much weapons along the creeks and waterways of the Niger Delta.

The deadly escapades of arms-bearing marauders suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have become increasingly unsettling. They have left their sanguinary footmark in practically every part of the country that has had the misfortune of receiving them in their seemingly unstoppable march, ostensibly, in search of pastures to graze their cattle. In their latest outing, they have been very unsparing of the host communities. They have inflicted a gaping wound on some villages in Benue State, spewing forth a river of human blood.

No immediate reasons have been proffered for the latest attacks. Neither has anybody been able to give the precise number of people killed; but reports say it is in their hundreds.

When the President ordered that any AK47 wielding person should be shoot at sight by security forces, it brought a welcome relief to so many Nigerians that the President and the government has started to live up to their responsibilities. But how sincere is the presidential pronouncement?

At a meeting with the National Council of Traditional Rulers of Nigeria at the State House, co-chaired by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III and the Ooni of Ife, Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi, the President in Abuja emphasised that security chiefs have received marching orders to go harder on criminals, including to shoot anyone found illegally with AK-47.

The meeting was attended by security chiefs including the National Security Adviser, Major-General Babagana Monguno (Rtd), Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, the Director-General of Department of State Services, Yusuf Bichi, and the Director-General of National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Ambassador Ahmed Rufai Abubakar.

The president, who apprised the meeting of efforts by the government to improve the security situation in the country, said his administration has recorded appreciable successes in the North-east and South-south parts of the country.

‘‘But what surprises is what is happening now in the North-west, where the same people, with the same culture are killing each other, taking their livestock and burning properties.

‘‘As a result of that, we had a four-hour meeting of the National Security Council attended by the Ministers of Internal Affairs, Defence, Foreign Affairs, Service Chiefs, Chief of Defence Staff, the Inspector-General of Police and others and we gave clear instructions.

‘‘One thing that got to the press which I read myself was that anyone with an AK-47 will be shot. This is because AK-47 is supposed to be registered and it is only given to security officials.

‘‘We closed the borders for some years but the intelligence report I’m getting on a daily basis is that those who are conducting the abductions, the killings and so on are still not short of arms and ammunition,’’ he said.

The following royal fathers made interventions at the meeting: the Sultan of Sokoto, the Ooni of Ife, the Obi of Onitsha, Nnaemeka Achebe; the Etsu Nupe, Yahaya Abubakar; King Jaja of Opobo, Dandeson Douglas Jaja; Emir of Bauchi, Rilwanu Suleiman Adamu; Emir of Gwandu, Muhammad Iliyasu and the Alawe of Ilawe-Ekiti, Adebanji Ajibade Alabi.

Following outcries across the country on their activities, Nigerians started calling for the creation of militia to curb them. In the South-west, a regional security outfit, Amotekun was created to battle the menace.

Tired of the uproar that followed the herdsmen activities, the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) urged Fulani herdsmen to return to the northern region if their security could not be guaranteed in their host communities in the southern part of the country. The NEF also told northern governors to commence preparation to receive the Fulani communities being ejected from southern states.

NEF Director of Publicity and Advocacy, Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, in a statement said the relocation advice became necessary following alleged attack on Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the south.

The forum warned that the nation would be treading dangerous grounds if it continued to tolerate demonisation of entire groups over particular types of crimes.

The elders called on President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors to “protect law-abiding members of Fulani communities from killers and criminals who apparently believe that Fulani have no rights in Nigeria.”

The statement read in part: “NEF is deeply worried by reports of ejections, under threats and attacks, of Fulani herders, families and communities in some states of the south. The forum has been receiving these reports since the night of Sunday, January 31, and has taken the responsible step by drawing the attention of authorities to the dangers, which these attacks represent for all Nigerians.

“We have also advised law-abiding Fulani communities to seek protection where it is available, and have appealed to other Fulani to resist temptation to take the law into their own hands.

“It is necessary to warn people who threaten law-abiding Fulani communities in all parts of Nigeria, but particularly in some parts of the South, to desist. Majority of Fulani are law-abiding and have rights to live lawfully wherever they can find means of subsistence.

“The Fulani will not be ejected from any Nigerian community only on the basis of being Fulani or herding cattle within the limits of laws and regulations. States that seek to limit criminal activities are perfectly entitled to do so, but they must follow due process, and avoid exposing innocent citizens to danger at all cost. The forum demands that the Nigeria Police must live up to its constitutional responsibility to detect crimes and arrest and prosecute criminals, whoever they are.”

The President until recently had been silent on the activities of suspected killer Fulani herdsmen. At every turn, he had spawned all criticism while giving seeming tacit support to their activities. His behavior may be explained by the fact that he is not only a cattle farmer himself, until he was elected president, he was the grand patron of Miyetti Allah, the association of the herdsmen.

QUOTE

The deadly escapades of arms-bearing marauders suspected to be Fulani herdsmen have become increasingly unsettling. They have left their sanguinary footmark in practically every part of the country that has had the misfortune of receiving them in their seemingly unstoppable march, ostensibly, in search of pastures to graze their cattle. In their latest outing, they have been very unsparing of the host communities. They have inflicted a gaping wound on some villages in Benue State, spewing forth a river of human blood. No immediate reasons have been proffered for the latest attacks. Neither has anybody been able to give the precise number of people killed; but reports say it is in their hundreds. When the President ordered that any AK47 wielding person should be shoot at sight by security forces, it brought a welcome relief to so many Nigerians that the President and the government has started to live up to their responsibilities. But how sincere is the presidential pronouncement?